THE BURNING GHOSTS OF AMERICA (PT. 1: LINER NOTES, AND FIRST PEEKS)

Burning-Ghosts---Orenda-0030---Square-Cover

For today’s Fungasm Friday, we’re gonna take a day off from books to celebrate independent artists kicking ass at the musical end of the spectrum.

Case in point: the astonishing debut album by avant/jazz/metal ensemble Burning Ghosts. It’s being released today by Orenda Records, a label which has for the past several years specialized in the boundary-breaking sounds unleashing from L.A.’s creative underground.

When Daniel Rosenboom asked me to write the liner notes for his new band’s new album, I was delighted to oblige. The man’s an authentic musical genius: on the trumpet, as a composer, a bandleader, and the brains behind Orenda. And the second those new tracks poured into my ears, and we discussed the soul and intent behind them, I went upstairs and wrote the following words.

[CLICK BELOW for “Manifesto”, the debut video from BURNING GHOSTS. And check PT. II, coming right up, featuring an interview with the man and links for more info!]

https://vimeo.com/165177877

THE BURNING GHOSTS

OF AMERICA

JOHN SKIPP

Black smoke curls through the blood red sky, laced with blue and white and sheer darkness above. Below, the streets are aflame like they haven’t burned since Rodney King. Or more to the point, Watts in 1965.

Injustice has a smell. You can ignore it if you want. Ignore it if you can. Like a fart in a room. Be polite all you want. Doesn’t mean that it’s not there.

Injustice has a voice. It is not always heard. But it has to be deliberately ignored to be missed.

Because it’s already there. You can hear it scream, cutting through all the din between you and the bland-but-jittery obfuscating fabric of ordinary life. Hear it cry. Hear it rage. Hear it dance to its own rhythms. Laugh. Find its power. Peel the clay from off its feet.

It has a voice like a horn that sings straight from the soul. Slices through the cacophony. Tells you just who it is. Evoking every emotion there is.

And all around it stand the burning ghosts of America.

The streets are alive with flaming specters, their sorrow etched in fire. They are the ones who passed before us. Who stood up and got mowed down for their trouble. Who never stood up, got mowed down anyway. Who barely got a chance to even stand before they were leveled low.

These are the ghosts that flame amongst the living. Who haunt us every step of the way. Whether we ignore their fire, pretend that fart never happened, is entirely our call.

But the dead call to us. And what they’re saying is this:

SET YOURSELF ON FIRE, WHILE YOU’RE STILL ALIVE TO DO SO.

The flaming ghosts of the past are only here to inspire and inform. It’s the only toehold they have left on a world they no longer inhabit. Memories. Legacies. Priceless artifacts, if we’re lucky enough to have preserved them.

They had their day.

But this is ours.

And lemme just say: the full weight of legacy burns through every note on this frankly astonishing set. The world we inhabited. The world we’re in now. Like Miles Davis and King Crimson went to Ornette Coleman’s house, where Frank Zappa, Ennio Morriccone, and Buckethead were also ready to jam with every other great musician who ever lived. Said “Let’s pretend the world matters.” And took it all the way to town from there.

It weirdly smells like the calamitous last half of the 1960s to me, in the very best way. Only fifty years later.

And with new artists, entirely on fire. Burning both like forever and like never before.

I don’t know if you believe in the human soul. But I do. It’s not belief. It’s just human experience. One soul ignites another. I’ve seen it over and over. That’s just the the way life is.

This is how we keep the torch alive, even as the coppery tang of blood on our streets cuts through the chaos of this world like a trumpet’s scream.

If you can hear it, taste it, smell it, you know what it is. Every ear, nose, and tongue knows something’s up when history awakens to itself.

Let’s not fool ourselves, boys and girls. Shit just got real. Has never been realer than now.

We’re at another pivot point in history. And whether this smoke in the air smells like revolution, evolution, devolution, total apocalyptic disaster – or all of the above, in competing measure – if there’s one thing I know, it’s that the time has come to put all all of our flame-squirting cards on the table. Just lay it all out. See it all for what it is. Whether we like it or not. It’s the only hope in either heaven or hell we have of ever fucking clearing the air.

And if that wild trumpeting voice of the soul has anything real and important to tell us – surrounded as it is by all the burning, long-suffering ghosts of America, from beginning to end – it’s that this life matters. Every moment. Every beat. Every laugh and cry and scream. Every tenderness and triumph.

That’s the voice I carry with me every step of the way to wherever we’re going. And why I love this singular gift of purest soul fire.

Get ready to light yourself up, baby.

Because the time has come.

Yer pal in the trenches,

Skipp

Los Angeles

8/16/2015

 

ROSE O’KEEFE’S “12 REASONS I LOVE BEING A BOOK PUBLISHER”

I wanted to talk today about the value of creative joy in your life: finding something you love to do, or be, or simply have around you as much as possible. And then I went, “Shit! Rose wrote one of those a month ago, and I don’t think I can top it!”

So here’s a beautiful message from Rose O’Keefe, CEO of Eraserhead Press, the flagship of the Bizarro armada wreaking jolly havoc on the cultural coastline of your choice. Fungasm is an imprint of Eraserhead, as are Jeff Burk’s Deadite and Cameron Pierce’s Lazy Fascist; and the creative community spinning out from that hub is the warmest and wildest I’ve ever known. TAKE IT AWAY, ROSE!!!

12 Reasons I Love Being a Book Publisher

THE ART OF THE BOOK TRAILER, FUNGASM-STYLE!!!

In a culture so bombarded and oversaturated with media that drowning in it is a full-time hazard, the only way for a plucky little small press publisher to get any attention is to BOMBARD IT SOME MORE!!! Only classy, ya know?

It is in that intrepid spirit that we present the first Fungasm Press book trailers. They’re designed to very quickly induce the suggestible viewer to go, “Oh, I wanna read THAT book!”

This morning, we released this mini-movie for Devora Gray’s HUMAN FURNITURE (AND THE QUEST FOR THE PERFECT WOMAN). In it, Scarlett (played by Devora herself) has a “Secret Spy session” in a swanky hotel with indie filmmaker Charles Pinion, who also edited the flick. I wrote, directed, scored, and performed the music with Marc Levinthal (who also engineered), Gavin Templeton on sax, and Laura Lee Bahr. It was a total blast to make, and captures the crazy-fun sense of danger and excitement you can get from having a fantasy fulfilled.

 

Just a few days earlier, Patrick McPheron directed this wonderful piece for Laura Lee Bahr’s LONG-FORM RELIGIOUS PORN. It’s a perfect way to distill the  wild, kaleidoscopic  threads (Hollywood, sex crimes, vampires, Jesus) of Laura’s book into one minute of mordant, witty, compelling eye candy.

Finally, on the DIY tip, comes this hilarious instructional video from Danger Slater. It’s not a book trailer, exactly, but it sure makes me happy! Danger stars, and I believe his loving accomplice Lisa LeStrange shot the whole thing on her phone. Which shows what you can do with a great idea, a little ingenuity, and objects found around the home!

 

We’ll be making more of these for every release, and adding extra cool video doodads along the way. JUST KEEPIN’ IT FUNGASMIC! And hope that you enjoy!

ON THE VIRTUE OF DEVOTION (AND WHAT FUNGASMS MEAN TO ME)

For me, the tone of this year was set by the death of David Bowie. Or more specifically, by the beyond-beautiful and inspiring way he played his imminent death, fought through not just fucking cancer but six heart attacks to create one last brilliant going-away present. Not just a gorgeous gift to all who loved him or should (which BLACKSTAR clearly is), but a lift-off platform for his soul as he said goodbye to both his meat and ours.

This is the artistic equivalent of a mother lifting a truck off her child. Such an act of love. An act of will.  And an act of purest self-expression, right down to the very end.

There are certain people who evidently came here to say something. Or, at the very least, strangely awoke here, containing secret information so deeply encoded within them that they could not — cannot — let it rest. It has to be wrestled with at some deep fucking level, whether it is fully understood or not.

And, from that deep insideness, has to come out somewhere.

It has to be expressed. WILL NOT GO UNEXPRESSED. At which point, they go, “I will devote the rest of my life to pursuing this.” And then devote themselves to the craft (or crafts, as is often the case) that best expresses that immensity for their experience.

Studying the masters (which is to say, their favorites). Figuring out their techniques. Trying to get inside their strategies. Figure out how and why the things that worked for them worked so well.

If it’s books, they follow the words. If it’s music, they follow the notes. If it’s movies, they follow the motion pictures. Painting. Dance. You name it, they dug in that hard. In search of that level of mastery itself. Pursuing it and pursuing it. Till they actually hit the mark, and nail it for all to see.

I’m always fascinated by people who burn that hard, with that much raw kindling inside them. They’re the ones that tend to stand out from the crowd for me, cuz I can see how fucking hard they care the second their shit hits me. Can see their unique vision. Can see all the work they put in, to get it there.

This does not mean I don’t appreciate the trillions of talented people who just want to entertain us by reminding us of what we already know, retelling the popular stories we already love in their own way. The best of them keep that shit alive and vibrant. Ain’t nothing wrong with that!

But from where I stand, the best of the best have always been those who saw a hole in the firmament that only they could fill. Had a vision as-yet-unexpressed. Knew that no one but them could ever say it, or shoot it, or draw or sing or dance it like that. And then devoted their lives to precisely that thing.

They’re the motherfuckers I’m looking for hardest.

David Bowie was a true art hero because he ceaselessly pursued a vision that dragged him all the way from birth to death, and quite possibly beyond. In the process, he rediscovered himself over and over, as the times and his own self-image changed radically around him. Sometimes utterly lost. Indeed, some of the best times utterly lost. You can listen to him grapple with his soul in almost every note he ever let loose upon us.

But it wasn’t just about his ceaseless soul-grapple. It was about his will to share it. To communicate. To resonate within that soul-grapple with everybody else’s struggle, joy, and pain.

And past that, yes, a will to entertain. To make even the bitterest pill something you were dying to swallow. Because it rocked. It crooned. It swerved, grooved, and swayed. It broke you down. Took you in its sweet caress. Kissed your lips. Stroked your breast. Blew your mind. Pulled back in a scream that you felt in your bones. Held you, even as the universe pulled apart. Contemplative. Intimate.

And periodically fucked you senseless.

That, my friends, is a Fungasm for me.

So if you were to ask me what I want out of 21st-century art-o-tainment, I think you just got my answer.

THANK YOU, DAVID BOWIE!!!

Now it’s all up to us to carry that gorgeous spirit forward. With that same level of devotion.

Which is to say: I think you’re gonna like these books.

Yer pal in the trenches,

Skipp

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WELCOME TO THE FUNGASM PARTY BLOG!!!

Dear friends and curious others —

HI! I’m Skipp, your humble host and curator. And this will be my blog for many moons to come. Odds are good that the rest of the Fungasm gang will pop by from time to time. IT’S A PARTY BLOG! Who knows what kinda shit might happen!

One thing I know is gonna happen: we’re gonna run lots of interviews. Not just with our writers, but with other creative people we think are exciting: writers, filmmakers, musicians, artists, publishers, you name it. Spreading the fungasms far and wide.

When cool, pertinent videos show up, we will run them, too. (We’re hoping for oodles of that.) There will be thoughtful think pieces on the burning issues of our time, or whatever happens to be on our minds. Gobs of pure Bizarro strangeness. And, I anticipate, loads o’ laffs!

Because we’re just opening up the site, some of the rooms aren’t quite complete. We want the Author pages to reflect the entirety of their work, not just their Fungasm stuff. Some have their own websites, where you can follow them more closely. All of them are on Facebook, and some have Twitter and more. You know the drill. None of us are that hard to find.

And we’ve barely even started to load in our Media page. But there’s gonna be a lot.

So the bottom line is: THANKS FOR STOPPING BY! We’re gonna try to keep shit lively — maybe even downright inspirational, from time to time — as our little way of reminding you that you are not alone in recognizing that life is fucking weird. And art is cool.

But relative sanity — and quality art, insofar as I can tell — comes largely from embracing the madness at hand. Learning to ride it, even though you know it can never be tamed.

There is much of value in this beautiful, crazy-ass world. And a shitload of terror that cannot be denied. Soul-snuffing horror. Atrocity beyond belief.

Here at Fungasm Press, we wanna push the limits. Dance outside the lines. Leave no psychic stone unturned on our way to making sense of the non-sensible. Feeling grounded in the boundless strange.

And tuning into each other, for clues and support and palpable connection. Because everybody needs all the help they can get.

And if there’s one thing everybody wants, it is to be heard, and understood.

We are each other’s lifelines. And they are gonna come in handy.

GREAT TO MEET YOU!

Yer pal in the trenches,

Skipp